In the most recent Seattle Intensive (Actorswork) workshop, we were asked to name a fear we hold about acting. Instantly, I thought of some of the risks within film work, such as:
- Lack of control when your performance is chopped up in the editing room
- Fear of others’ perceptions of you as a person, (sometimes because of how a performance is edited)
- Fear that the film will be badly finished, impacting your career marketability
- Fear that your Grandma will see that one love scene
All valid. I battle all of these. But this time, my greatest fear wasn’t “bad” characters or villains or challenging roles or editors I don’t trust… My biggest fear was “acting as commerce.”
My greatest fear may baffle most actors: acting for money. Specifically, I mean having to take a job I’d otherwise pass on, just for the paycheck.
I recently read about an actor who takes his roles based on whether or not healthcare is provided. He may have been a tad tongue-in-cheek but there’s still truth at the core. This discussion isn’t the merits healthcare, it’s why we act.
Acting for me is completely different from a “job.” When I sign on, I want it to be with a mixture of joy and terror, the inward tug of knowing I’m beginning an adventure. And I want it to pay, don’t misunderstand me! But I don’t want a paying gig first, and a compelling gig second. As Amy Poehler hinted during the Golden Globes …
The journey has highs and lows. You’ll be swamped with work one month, and then you’ll realize a certain casting director hasn’t asked for you in a year (gulp – true story). Sometimes you have to take jobs that aren’t exactly winning material – that dry teleprompter-laden training video, for example. Or heck, a national commercial (!) for fast food that you loathe, but it pays your rent for a year.
I just know that I’m an actor because I’m a compassionate, emotional individual who loves to connect deeply. I want that to always be the driving force behind why I take (or don’t take) an acting gig. Most importantly, I need to trust that as long as I am true to myself, the right gigs will continue to find me.